By Anthony Deen
At GbD we often focus and critique development projects that are too tall, too dense, or just plain ugly. How often have we and other local bloggers and community activists written about property owners who maximize their buildings ignoring the surrounding scale at the expense of the community?
We appreciate that not all new development is bad development, and a number of recent projects along Bond Street show that there’s potential for interesting and engaging architecture here in the Gowanus area. That is not to say that the architectural aesthetics of the buildings are outstanding or special but rather to say that the projects have been designed with some intelligence and an attempt to create something additive to them
It may be ironic that the building I start with is the Satori on the corner of Bond and Carroll by Scarano Associates, because of course this is the firm that brought us one of the worst offenders of local zoning, 333 Carroll Street aka the Hell Building. And there is debate between members of the GbD team as to how well designed the Satori is given the adjacent context. The horizontal windows and use of wood paneling on the exterior facade definitely provoke debate. At the same time I believe Scarano’s team was thoughtful in the use a variety of materials in the facade to visually break up the mass of the building. Along with indentations and set backs, the varied use of materials keep what is in fact a very sizable building in scale. In my opinion the design of this condominium building is actually tasteful. There are some questions in regard to the use of double height and storage spaces in the building, although ultimately the scale of the building fits comfortably in the adjacent zoning envelope.
Another project that uses an mix of facade materials to camouflage its overall mass is the well documented Third + Bond condominiums. Third + Bond has maintained a weekly blog on Brownstoner throughout the construction process offering insight into the details of the building construction process. It’s a level of transparency that could only be done today and is a very interesting way to engage the community and to educate laymen about the construction process..
Designed by Rogers Marvel Architects for the Hudson Companies, the image above shows the articulated facade and material mix that both reference the vernacular language of the neighboring brownstones and townhouses while providing visual differentiation between adjacent buildings. The complex has a number of architectural amenities including roof top balconies and brise soleil; a shared heating, plumbing and electrical system (achieving efficiencies of a large building in a townhouse/ apartment typology); and sustainable backyard landscaping. The building also aggregates storm water run off from the roofs and backyards in a single onsite retention tank. The tree pits unfortunately are not connected to that to retention tank.
There are a few new smaller buildings - single and double lot projects designed at a high level of quality. Two of the more interesting examples are 398 Bond Street and 14 Fourth Street. 398 Bond has a glass facade ala Richard Meier’s Perry Street and Prospect Park condominiums. 14 Fourth is a bit more understated, but definitely one of the more handsome buildings of its scale (only eight units) built in the neighborhood. By comparison there are several red brick contractor specials which offer nothing innovative in either design or quality of life.
These projects show us that a high level of design can be done in our neighborhood at an appropriate scale. The only criticism I would offer is that unfortunately all these projects are of the condominium/ luxury condominium type. It would be wonderful if this quality of design were being used on local apartment and commercial buildings. I also question the current condominium model which uses minimal detailing and inexpensive interior material on products which are offered at relatively high price points.
What we sed to have to deal with - the Hell building at Carroll between Hoyt and Bond